car-482683_1280Do you know your ABS from your AFM? How about EDC and ECU? Many motoring terms can be quite complex, necessitating industry-standard acronyms that are easy for people – mechanics, salespeople and drivers, to remember. Some are now readily familiar as they have become shorthand for common features sold with every car, such as AC, yes; even in Newcastle cars need air conditioning from time to time! Here’s a list of some of common acronyms that it’s good to keep in mind when shopping for a new car…

ABS – Anti-lock Braking System. If you need to slam on the brakes in a hurry, your ABS will kick in with a series of electronic sensors to prevent them from locking up, thereby stopping the car from skidding, or at least cutting the risk of it. Basically it releases and then reapplies the brakes in rapid succession, simultaneously reducing speed, thereby letting the driver steer and maintain control. Note that it is not a substitute for a sensible stopping distance!

PAS – Power Assisted Steering. Larger, heavier cars, the adoption of front wheel drive in many vehicles, and wider tyres all mean that it would be difficult to effectively steer many cars at low speeds without PAS. You can have a hydraulic or electric system depending on the type of car you drive, and if you’ve ever tried steering a car without PAS, you’ll have noticed the difference immediately.

SRS – Supplementary Restraint System. This is your airbags. Using a series of sensors dotted around the car to determine likely impact should you have a crash, the airbags deploy as a further in-car safety measure, working alongside your seatbelt to cushion you from the blow. The algorithms used to deploy the airbags are increasingly complex, and may now take into account not just the speed you’re going, but your weight, whether the seatbelt is being used, and where you’re sitting in the car to judge when and at what speed to trigger the airbag.

EFI – Electronic Fuel Injection. This is now the primary means of getting the fuel into your car’s engine, having replaced carburetors over the last few decades. The fuel is atomised and then injected through a tiny nozzle at high speeds – a more efficient and environmentally-friendly method than the previous suction technique, that will also save you money. Similarly, DDI, for Direct Diesel Injection.

LPG – Liquid Petroleum Gas. A mix of propane and butane that can be used in some vehicles as an alternative to petrol or diesel. While it is considered to be more eco-friendly, burning more cleanly and containing fewer particulates, it is generally thought that LPG-powered vehicles have a higher fuel consumption.

ECU – Electronic Control Unit. These are your car’s brains. Think of your car as like an octopus. Its eight arms each have a mind of their own, able to coordinate and problem-solve, do their own thinking almost, without needing to consult the octopus’ main brain. Modern cars have many ECUs, up to around 80 in some vehicles, each with their own function, such as controlling the powertrain or the suspension. They are all connected to the car’s main computer(s), which collects and collates data from each ECU and passes information to the driver so decisions can be made.

ACC – Automatic Cruise Control. This one is very clever. When your car is in cruise control on the motorway, on-board sensors note the proximity of traffic from vehicles ahead of you and adjust throttle or brakes to keep you a safe distance away. Expect this to advance in the future to use satellites and radar, and even cooperation with a similar system in the car in front to prevent crashes.

Basically, if there are any acronyms listed for the car you want to buy that you don’t understand, ask for them to be explained before making a purchase, as they may be important. Got all that? OK, TTFN.